Near – who also went by the names 'byuu' and 'Dave' in the past and identified as non-binary – posted a Twitter thread over the weekend which opened up about the bullying and harassment they had received online.
Since issuing the statement, several Twitter followers have attempted to get in touch with Japanese resident Near via the US Embassy. An anonymous acquaintance later reported via mutual friend Hector “Marcan” Martin – a security consultant and hacker – that Near had passed away (we've chosen not to link directly to this statement as it contains distressing details). Martin later confirmed that he had spoken to "the police department in charge of the investigation", which confirmed that Near died on June 27th.
Many have taken to Twitter to share their condolences and pay tribute:
Daniel De Matteis, project lead on the Libretro (which now carries its own obituary to Near) and Retroarch, has supplied Nintendo Life with the following statement:
The tremendous loss in losing Near should serve as a catalyst for us as a scene and community to reflect on our own behaviour, our own inaction and strive to do better. There are lessons to be learned here. There is a certain air of competitiveness, distrust and bitterness that has taken hold in emulation that quite frankly is further exasperating the situation we find ourselves in today. Mistakes have been made in this scene by all of us, but that doesn't mean we can't learn from it and strive to do better from here on out. It does not matter who said what at what juncture in frustration, who is the better coder, who follows the best coding practices, who said what behind one's back, etc. - we as a scene, all of us, from endusers to developers, need to ensure that situations like this can never happen again. Because if we fail to do so, this small and niche subscene as we know it might cease to exist. Developers need to be certain and comfortable that they can develop in peace while knowing that if they ever are the target of an attack, they can count on a community of likeminded colleagues that will defend them and bat for them. Let's not focus in the future on what divides us and who is the bigger coder, but rather how we as like minded individuals in a small developer pond can all work together. It doesn't mean that projects necessarily have to follow along with one another at every juncture, and there can be disagreements, but we absolutely should be able to deal with things in a diplomatic and pragmatic way while retaining respect for one another.
What is the future of this scene if developers have to fear the reprisal of unruly mobs that will doxx them and tear them apart? There is no future, quite simply. Developers are not going to risk putting themselves out there like this if this is the price that can be paid. It doesn't mean that everyone has to start signing Code of Conducts for every project but it means that we should all strive for common sense respect and diplomacy towards one another. And if certain doxxing sites or harrassment sites threaten that, we as a scene collectively need to counteract it and neutralize it. We all can and should be better than this. People need to come together instead of being territorial and isolationist.
This situation can and should not ever happen again. Developers on the Internet working on opensource code should be able to operate in peace without having to fear cyberstalking and doxxing like this. Let us mourn Near, but let us at the same time reflect on our own conduct and apply lessons to ensure situations like this cannot happen easily again.
Another software engineer who contacted us and wished to remain anonymous shared this tribute:
Near was a very kind and sweet person, who cared for many. They went through so many troubles just to be themselves. They always wanted to help others and show them a path to the future. Despite all the things that may or may not have happened, they were always wonderful. I will miss them and I hope that they have found the peace they were so looking for.
Near's work in the realm of retro gaming preservation and emulation was nothing short of remarkable. Work on BSNES began in 2004, with the aim of making an emulator which was as accurate as possible (there's a great feature on this topic over at Ars Technica, which you should read).
Early versions of BSNES ran slowly on anything but top-level hardware, but, thanks to the fact that Near went the extra mile and actually decapped SNES chips to better understand them, it has become the gold standard of SNES emulators, boasting 100% compatibility with the entire SNES library. However, despite being focused on their own emulator, Near took the time to offer assistance to the developers of Snes9x to improve that project, too.
Outside of emulation, Near was also a major force in the world of preservation and even bought an entire North American and Japanese SNES / Super Famicom collection so they could dump them and ensure the ROMs were as faithful as possible. A passionate campaigner for the retro community, Near was also one of the major voices when it came to pointing out how companies like Retro-Bit, Hyperkin and Cyber Gadget had illegally used non-commercial emulators without permission in commercial products.
In 2018, Near told Eurogamer:
Given we are working for free, we often simply cannot afford to challenge license violations, and I'm sure the violators are well aware of this fact. Further, speaking from personal experience, any time one raises complaints, they face significant backlash from a small percentage of the general public. You absolutely will have fans of these products disparaging you for criticizing the company or product they've invested money into. Most emulator developers I know wish to keep a low profile, and choose to stay silent when their rights are infringed. The reasoning is, 'nobody likes a complainer.' Daniel [De Matteis, software developer and current lead of both RetroArch and Libretro] and I are very outspoken, and as a result we tend to be rather infamous within the community. It can be rather exhausting at times.
Near also spent many years trying to produce the perfect English localisation for Bahamut Lagoon, a Squaresoft Super Famicom RPG that never saw release outside of Japan.
Speaking to Vice, Near explained:
I have attempted this fan translation five times. The reason I've started over each time was because I learned more, and felt I could do better. The reason I've released this fifth attempt is because I no longer believe there's anything left that can be improved upon.
Near also created what many people see as the best translation for the Super Famicom title Der Langrisser, another game that never saw release in the west.
Near's personal site includes the following autobiographical section, in which they stated that they were driven by an "overwhelming drive to achieve perfection":
Personality wise, I'm an INTJ-T. I mostly prefer to keep to my own spaces, and generally won't reach out first to others. I work alone, though I am at my best when I have friends nearby to support me. I tend to be overly sensitive and self-critical, and I am not the most adept at social graces, but I'm working on these challenges as best I can. I value honesty above politeness, and rationality above emotion. I have a strong desire to understand everything, and an overwhelming drive to achieve perfection, which often leads me to implementing everything I can myself.
I find I'm not content unless I am working on problems that are just beyond my limits, always seeking to increase my knowledge and capabilities. You'll pretty much always find me working on something, as I don't enjoy leisure time.
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Please note that due to the highly sensitive nature of this topic, we've taken the decision to close comments on this article.